Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I SAW A GHOST
Paranormal activity! In a mid-size, suburban town called Parramatta, of all places.
I was at a film festival called 'Best in the West', celebrating filmmakers from Western Sydney. I was invited, which was nice, and was attending because I wanted to support Western Sydney filmmaking. It's a cultural wasteland an hour west of Sydney Harbour, I know because I grew up there, so any event trying to improve the situation should be supported.
I didn't expect a supernatural experience, however.
Now, to be clear, I had been drinking. Two scotches. So, I was a bit wavy, but not sloshed. The first 45 minutes of the film screenings had concluded and I was enjoying the second beverage during intermission, while being roundly ignored by everyone there. It was actually quite fun, drinking and people watching. Young filmmakers screening their early work, taking photos with their crew and actors. Student filmmakers chatting happily with their classmates before the student film section of the program. It was nice to be a witness to people just enjoying filmmaking.
Then, amongst all of this joy, I spotted a familiar face. My stomach dropped.
It couldn't be. He died a year ago.
I even wrote about him: http://openingactfilms.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/danger-was-his-last-name.html
But there he was.
I was glued to my seat. Horrified.
How was this possible? Had he faked his own death? Why would he do that?
And then, I lost him. He mixed into the crowd and was gone.
With a shaky hand I finished my scotch. Suddenly, a loud voice announced the end of intermission.
I shuffled back into the theatre, hesitantly. I looked for Nick. No trace of him.
Was my mind playing tricks on me? After two scotches?
The films began playing. I refocused my attention to the screen. But I was distracted. Rattled, even. Through the first two films I kept surveying the crowd. Nothing.
A trailer began to play for a feature film. The festival didn't have time to play the feature, but wanted to promote it by playing the trailer. Title cards splashed on the screen in red script.
'A Danger Film'. I couldn't believe it. How was this possible?
The remaining films played through. Lights came on dimly. I leapt to my feet and scanned the audience.
There he was. Centre row. Chatting happily to friends.
I hustled in his direction, catching them all mid-conversation. Their confused faces stared at me. I scanned only one.
And I realised, despite looking freakishly similar, it wasn't him. I asked if he knew Nick Danger. He was stunned a moment.
"Of course, he was my brother".
That's how I met Tom Danger. We shared some pleasantries. I congratulated him on keeping up the family tradition by still making films. We both smiled and I moved on.
I've been thinking a lot about Nick Danger since then. I wrote about him last year, in June. He had just passed away after a long battle, from the age of 4 to 21, with cancer. It struck me then how his story could have been tragic, but that he had made the most of every moment he had. He had studied film, made a well received documentary, and even made a low budget feature film, like his heroes. His time was cut short, but he lived more than most people do in a lifetime.
And I couldn't help but think about what I have done with my time since then. It has been over a year since he was taken so young. In this time, he would have probably achieved more remarkable milestones, as he was prone to do.
But what have I done with the gift of life? Have I honoured his memory by using my time well?
I'm not sure that I'm fit to judge my own efforts. I'm biased, after all. And I'll spare you a cataloging of what I've done in the last 18 months. It's more of an internal discussion, really.
Instead, I wanted to remind you of a guy named Nick, who took on the world and succeeded in his own way. He was dealt a bad hand and he still managed to come up almost straight aces. By my logic anyway.
In the modern world, it's easy to get distracted. It's easy to spend too much time and energy worrying about what you haven't achieved, frowning at your to-do list, rather than focusing that energy on being productive.
Nick didn't have that luxury.
And that is his legacy, from my perspective. Nick will always be a reminder that you can sit around, buried in consternation about the difficulty of the challenge ahead and what goals you haven't achieved, or you can just start climbing.
OK, I didn't see a ghost. I saw a memory.
But I got the message Nick was sending, regardless.
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